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What is ampullary cancer?

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Quick Answer

A rare disease, ampullary cancer forms in the ampulla of Vater, the area where the bile duct and pancreatic duct meet and empty into the small intestine, according to Mayo Clinic. Because ampullary cancer develops near the pancreas, liver and small intestine, it can be mistaken for periampullary cancers.

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Full Answer

Jaundice, the most common symptom of ampullary cancer, is a result of bile entering the bloodstream, causing the skin to appear yellow. Additional symptoms of ampullary cancer include abdominal pain, progressive weight loss, skin itchiness, diarrhea and gastrointestinal bleeding. To diagnose ampullary cancer, doctors perform tests such as ultrasounds and CT scans to look for tumors in the ampulla of Vater. Jaundice is the physical symptom that doctors look for to see if a patient should be tested for ampullary cancer, adds the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Removing the tumor using the Whipple procedure is the standard approach. This procedure has increased survival rates to between 20 and 75 percent, depending on how far the cancer has progressed. Ampullary cancers generally have a better survival rate than periampullary cancers, or cancers that originate in the pancreas, bile duct or intestine. They also seem to be more common in men than in women, states the University of Rochester Medical Center.

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